Laura Tanner Jewelry: Supporting Local is Easy When It’s So Unique & Beautiful!


An article from 2014 in Forbes Magazine, “Why You Need to Support Small Businesses,” points to five reasons to support local businesses:

  1. You can often find good prices at local stores. In contrast to what many think,  stores don’t control pricing, vendors do. This means that a common perception that thrifty shoppers can do better at big box stores and national chains isn’t necessarily a true perception.
  2. Inventory is not always more easily available at big box stores. Small, local stores shop from the same vendors as big stores and national chains . . . and specialty shops often carry items that big stores don’t.  Small, local store proprietors put a lot of energy into building relationships with their customers and are usually very anxious to serve their customers well. If you don’t see something you want, and it comes from a vendor that store uses, the store is often able to contact the vendor and have the item sent out.
  3. Customer service is more personalized. Contacting a vendor to get an item that is of particular interest is just one way that local proprietors go out of their way to serve their customers.
  4. Sometimes small businesses offer greater product diversity and more options than nationally-owned chain stores. Certainly they will provide options more suited to their local customers. Small, local business owners often seek out specialty items to distinguish themselves. Since owners have a direct relationship with their customers, living in the same community, they are more likely to pick just the assortment of items that will appeal to their market. A huge assortment doesn’t make for product diversity if the assortment is irrelevant to a community.
  5. Local businesses are more likely to give back to a community. Most local business give back to their communities not only through local taxes but through monetary and in-kind contributions to local organizations and charities. They are likely to support local initiatives like environmental consciousness or keeping streets safe or clean and beautiful.

It’s doubly wonderful when you can support a local business that supports another local business. This is the case when you purchase Laura Tanner Jewelry at the Green Box Boutique in Woodstock! Centered on the Square in “our town,” the Green Box Boutique represents all of the strong points of local businesses mentioned above: good prices for specialty items you won’t necessarily find at chain stores, great, personalized customer service, and active engagement in community activities and services.

So isn’t it great to find out that the Green Box Boutique also supports localism in its choice of vendors! Laura Tanner Jewelry is based in Evanston, where all the jewelry is not only designed by Laura Tanner Swinand but is handmade by locally employed workers under her direct supervision.

About 8% of Laura’s business is over the internet, but the bulk of her business is in local stores, almost half of them in the Greater Metro Chicago area. We are fortunate to have her jewelry in Woodstock.

Laura began making and selling “funky enamel earrings and safety-pin bracelets” as a 13 year old. After completing a bachelors and a masters degree in art history, she decided to return to what she loved, making jewelry. She is drawn to meditative, tactile work, and appreciates the innate natural beauty and subtle imperfections of gemstones.  Her website describes her work as “contemporary” and “timeless.” Others describe her work as simple, delicate, sophisticated, versatile and inventive.  The Examiner calls her signature collections “trendy” and “unique,” with “grace” and “femininity.”

The jewelry is created with gemstone beads and pearls and precious metals. The pieces are designed to mix, match and layer. Each piece is handmade from gemstones, silver, gold-fill and gold vermeil metals. The jewelry is moderately priced and is featured in the 15th Annual One-of-a-Kind Show Chicago, December 3-6, 2015, at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, where Laura Tanner Jewelry is one of 600 artisans in the show. The show is designed to provide an opportunity to find unique, one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. But you don’t have to go even that far since we have it right here in Woodstock!

Even the raw materials come primarily from the U.S. or are purchased from U.S.-based suppliers whenever possible. The packaging supplies are made in the U.S., and publicity materials are printed locally by environmentally friendly printers.

Laura Tanner Jewelry expresses its environmental consciousness by savings all metal scraps and sending them to a supplier for recycling. Paper waste is recycled and food waste composted. Gift boxes and bags are from recycled content. The main supplier of their material is solar powered.

Laura Tanner Jewelry supports charitable organizations involved with assistance to women, children and the disabled and provides in-kind contributions to local raffles, benefits, events and more.

As of March, 2014, there were 28.2 million businesses in the U.S., with three-quarters of them small, local businesses. Only half of them will survive five years or more, but all of them work hard to bring unique contributions to local communities.  Do your part to make certain these business remain in our communities. Shop locally — and if you can do that with twice the power, supporting local businesses that support other local businesses that support other local businesses . . . well, why wouldn’t you?



It’s no trick, so it must be a treat: Skulltastic Wine Tasting


Where? Right here: Green Box Boutique, 100 Cass St., Woodstock Northeast corner of the Square

So what are you doing Saturday, October 31, for Halloween?? How about stopping into Green Box Boutique to enjoy a taste of wine with your friends . . . in the most intriguing bottle ever, Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery’s Pirate’s Blood Pepper.

The taste is intriguing as well, and it’s just the right thing for Halloween: Pirate’s Blood Pepper Mead is “A Sweet and spicy capsumel infused with three different chili peppers. A smokey warmth gives way to honey sweetness. Bottled with 2 chili peppers to increase heat with age. 500Ml 12% ABV.”

So what about that to enjoy while you watch the local parade of costumes around the Square? And here’s the thing, not only is the bottle intriguing and the wine (this is: mead) intriguing, but the business model is something you’ll want to learn about as well.

From Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery, Chicago, Illinois
And who is Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery? Located in Chicago for more than two decades, it is not only the first winery in Chicago but the only producer of mead on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. You can visit them at 10033 S. Western Ave. in Chicago, where you will enjoy an opportunity for up-close-and-personal education, an aspect of their business in which they take great pride. One of the advantages (for us) that it’s a local operation.

Can you imagine a Chicago Meadery and Winery that not only makes its own wines but raises its own bees and collects its own honey? Yes! That is part of the project of this ecologically and sustainably oriented company. “For each bottle of mead we produce, our bees pollinate some 2 million flowers. Those, in turn, produce 20 to 40 million seeds destined to become new flowers.” And all those flowers benefit the Greater Metropolitan Chicago area environment (because who knows how far those precious seeds may drift on the wind?).

Mead  . . . Not only for Beowulf
With a nearly 8,000 year history, Mead is thought to be the oldest alcoholic beverage. “Its roots trace back to earthen vessels discovered in modern-day China which contained ingredients for fermenting mead. But perhaps mead is best known within the context of the “mead hall,” where warriors such as the legendary Beowulf boasted of their deeds over a cup of it.”

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with yeast. Today it is a small niche of the craft wine and beer market.

How Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery Makes Their Mead:

  • Bees collect nectar from flowers, then return to their hives atop the roof of the Marriott Magnificent Mile, in the Ogden Dunes, in the Kankakee dunes and on a stretch of Park District land formerly home to a steel mill. At the hives, the bees disperse the nectar, and worker bees take over, turning the nectar into honey by evaporating most of the water.
  • We collect the honey from the hives in the form of honeycomb, being careful to leave an adequate supply for the bees to survive on while also avoiding the bottom two layers of the hive where the queen bee lays her eggs.
  • The honeycomb is spun in a centrifuge to extract the honey from the comb.
  • The raw honey is thinned with water until it’s the consistency of grape juice and 24 percent sugar content.
  • Yeast is added to the honey to start the fermentation process that converts the sugars in the honey into alcohol.
  • After about four weeks, the mead is transferred to a secondary fermentation tank. For fruit meads, frozen fruit may be added at this time. Freezing the fruit is a winemaking trick that breaks down the fruit’s cell walls, making juice extraction easier.
  • After another four weeks, the mead is passed through a wine press to strain the fruit. It then sits in a settling tank to get rid of yeast deposits. While in the settling tank, the sweetness is adjusted by tweaking with either more dry mead yeast (if it’s too sweet) or more honey (if it’s not sweet enough).
  • After being filtered a final time and bottled, the mead is ready to drink or age.

Now those of you who follow health news know that fermentation is big. Very big. And those of you who follow environmental news know how important it is to give back to the environment as this project does. And if you follow environmental news or politics, you know that local, local, local is where its at. Including for employment (of course since Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery is IN Chicago, they HIRE in Chicago).

So what else could we possibly want from a business but to be supporting all these important causes while at the same time making a product we can so heartily enjoy at Halloween and any time?? And putting it in such a great bottle?

Oh, and they also have skull glasses! Boo!


P.S. Did I mention that bees can become addicted too? A recent National Geographic report tells us that “Bees Are Buzzing on Caffeine.” Scientists say that at low concentrations, caffeine appears to attract honeybees and enhance their long-term memory. Wonder how they’d like mead?

Bridgewater Candles: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…

One tin provides three meals.
One tin provides three meals.

“LIGHT A CANDLE. FEED A CHILD.” With that slogan, Bridgewater Candle Company aims to provide 5,000,000 meals to orphaned children overseas. And they’ve almost done it! As of this writing, they put 4,947,411 meals on tables, and they’re still counting.

It’s a simple process. You purchase a candle, and they send a donation to Rice Bowls, an organization that partners with orphanages in seven at-risk areas: Haiti, Honduras/Nicaragua, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines.

This cooperation allows Bridgewater Candle Company to focus on their business, making candles and fragrances, selling them and making the money they donate. Partner organizations maintain the administrative framework to be certain the meals those sales pay for go to the right place.

“MADE IN AMERICA. FEEDING WORLDWIDE.” There’s more! Bridgewater Candles provides jobs for American workers in their South Carolina manufacturing and fragrance lab. Employees take great pride in their work, knowing that every jar candle contributes to saving the life of an orphaned child.

Like many contemporary young companies, Bridgewater Candle Company has a mission that is bigger than making a profit. The dollars purchasers spend pay American workers and feed orphaned children. This provides the company with a social mission in addition to a business mission and offers consumers an opportunity to partner with them in providing a needed service.

Bridgwater Candle Company’s socially conscious mission makes it part of a growing number of business taking their social responsibility seriously. The 2013 Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility reports that “Fifty percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society.”

The survey polled “more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries . . . Among consumers ages 40-44, 50 percent agree they would pay more, up from 38 percent” two years before. The younger the respondents, the more likely they were to pay more for goods and services from companies involved in socially conscious programs.

This study supports the results of a 2012 study from BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility. According to the Regeneration Consumer Study, two-thirds of consumers in six countries say that “as a society, we need to consume a lot less to improve the environment for future generations” (66%), and that they feel “a sense of responsibility to purchase products that are good for the environment and society” (65%).

These responses show us that social responsibility is a gift that keeps on giving in many directions. In the case of Bridgewater Candle Company, your purchase not only provides pleasure to you in your own home or in the home of someone for whom it is a special gift, it provides jobs for American workers, feeds orphaned children in seven at-risk areas, and promotes and supports the idea and reality of socially conscious business.